Introduction to Consumer Protection (11:I)
This chapter provides an overview of the law of consumer protection in British Columbia. The introduction includes brief explanations of the common law and statute law relating to consumer contracts. The following sections then describe the statutes in some detail. The sections are necessarily brief, and while intended to give the reader an accurate general understanding of consumer protections laws, do not replace a careful reading of the statutes and case law.
While parts of this chapter are concerned with the rights of sellers, the main thrust is to help clinicians advise consumers who want to get out of contractual obligations, enforce contractual obligations, extract damages for a breach of contract, or file a complaint with the appropriate regulator. This chapter should also help students determine the contractual and other obligations of the parties, and whether or not those obligations are enforceable.
B. Common Law vs. Statute
An aggrieved party may have remedies under statututory law, the common law, or both. B.C. statutes provide better protection to consumers than is afforded by the common law. Since legislation takes precedence over the common law, it is crucial that students check all relevant statutes when faced with the legal matters of consumers. For example, some contracts that are enforceable at common law are rendered unenforceable by relevant statutes.
C. Governing Legislation, Regulations, and Resources
1. Legislation and Regulations
The statutes to consult include the following:
Sale of Goods Act, RSBC 1996, c 410 [SGA].
- This legislation regulates contracts for the sale (or lease) of goods, but not services. The SGA is not concerned with the ethics of the transaction unless there is also a defect in the manner in which the contract is carried out (e.g. if the goods are not delivered, are damaged, or are unfit for the purpose for which they were sold). The protections are stronger for new goods than for goods that the purchaser knows are used. Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act, SBC 2004, c 2 [BPCPA]. The BPCPA is concerned with the ethics of a transaction, such as deceptive and unconscionable practices as well as information requirements for many types of consumer contracts. The BPCPA also gives consumers the right under some circumstances to get out of contracts in which the consumer has ongoing obligations under the contract, such as time share, gym memberships, and book of the month contracts. If the client wishes to get out of future obligations under a contract, see Section V.A: Direct Selling, below. In addition, the Act regulates businesses that offer such contracts and other transactions that are open to abuse, such as direct sales and